“Straw Dogs” Remake Lacks Original’s Punch: Movie Review

When Straw Dogs was first released in 1971, it was shocking, with levels of violence that surprised people, and a very controversial sexual act to go with it. It stood above others in its respective genre, mainly for how far it was willing to go.

In 2011, with an updated release, its just another faceless boat in a sea of bodies that are all doing the exact same thing.

James Marsden and Kate Bosworth play David and Amy Sumner, a writer and his semi-actress wife going back to her childhood home in Blackwater, Mississippi, so that he can escape the craze of LA and enjoy the peace and quiet in the lands of southern comfort, and work on his screenplay for an upcoming film.

Blackwater is full of color, packed with an ex-football coach, current angry drunk Tom Heddon (James Woods), the mentally challenged accidental troublemaker Jeremy (Dominic Purcell), and a group of rowdy “straw dogs” far past their glory days of high school football stardom. The supposed frontman of this makeshift gang, Charlie (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard), has history with Amy, once being touted as high school sweethearts. To make matters more uncomfortable, David contracts Charlie and his men to finish the roof of the house they moved into.

What happens next is a long line of awkward moments and growing tension before the house break-in that everyone should be aware of as it has been heavily hyped in the trailers, and is really the selling point of the movie.

This isn’t a bad movie by any means. The performances are strong, especially James Woods, giving his alcohol-sunken ex-coach a real loose cannon vibe. The script has made some changes in its location and familiarity between the characters, but it’s still fine enough, and the movie still attempts to push forward the sense for you to be squirming and wriggling in your seat after certain events.

But as I mentioned at the beginning, what might have seemed off-the-wall shocking in 1971 is practically commonplace in 2011. Nothing here seems to pack that much of a punch, and they don’t strive to do anything in a more creative or expressive manner than other movies founded on violence. We watch moments happen, we forget them, and then some more happen, and then so on.

What Straw Dogs really needed was some modern flavor, some beneficial envelope-pushing moments. You can give us tension, hand us a solid ensemble cast, but if the payoff isn’t there, it just doesn’t come together as well as it should.

While it will most likely prove relatively entertaining for viewers, and it is, there’s no lasting power and it falls privy to being an average or slightly above average movie in a crowded genre.

Like those “straw dogs” we watch one the big screen, no longer stars and forced to live among everyone as past relics of greatness, this story too has passed its glory days.

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